Odi et Amo: The Eight Biggest Climbs in Ulster County

When I was in college, I thought it would be a good idea to learn Latin. Not only would I appear erudite to the ladies, but I also thought it would come in handy in Latin America.* So I am fluent in Latin, which has had considerably less utility than I first thought.

One of the things we were required to do was memorize poems, and my favorite, by Catullus, went a little something like this:

“Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris?
Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.”


“I hate and I love. Why do I do it, perchance you might ask?
I don’t know, but I feel it happening to me and I am tortured.”

Catullus’ poem sums up my feeling about the following….

This is a list of climbs to complete in 2013, preferably as part of longer-distance rides, plus routes for each. Completed, in part, with help from John Schwartz, Doug Hoffman, and Bike Hudson Valley, the best–and clearly the most comprehensive–site for rides in the Hudson Valley. Not many pictures, though!

Some are repeats from 2012 and (out of Poughkeepsie) 2011 and 2010. GPS for all of the routes–and many more–can be found on my Ride With GPS page.

California Quarry Road, north of Woodstock. This route includes Ohayo Mountain Road, which I hear is a decent climb itself. I’ve heard that this climb is extremely difficult, although by the numbers it doesn’t appear too bad.

California Quarry Road

Meads Mountain Road, again, north of Woodstock.  Climbing up to the Buddhist Temple at the top. Apparently there’s a jeep track that allows you to continue up. I think this route includes both the paved road and the jeep track. Tops out at 2929 feet, maximum grade 19.5%.

Meads Mountain Road

Big Indian/Slide Mountain. Already done once (out of Poughkeepsie, no less), but definitely worth doing again. Ride With GPS says the max grade is 14.7%. This is also, incidentally, the highest pass in the Catskills. There may be one-way roads leading higher, but I haven’t found them yet. When I ride this again, I’m going to set up a little shrine where I vomited from overexertion on my previous ride, which on this map is just to the west of the word “Slide.”

Big Indian

Vista Maria in the Shawangunks. I wrote about this one recently , and I want to repeat it in better weather. By the numbers, as difficult as Platte Clove. This route also includes a climb over the Shawangunks on Mountain Rest Road (not difficult).

Vista Maria

Peekamoose. A repeat. I’ll probably do this one many times, it’s a good 50-mile training route with a diner at around mile 40. A longer climb, but only transient 14% to 15% grades. Note that I have also created a GPS course for this route out of Poughkeepsie.


Platte Clove. Another repeat. See the report here. I will probably repeat this one multiple times, it’s a good route with a nice 22% section, plus it has the benefit of a long high-speed downhill section on the back end. Note that I have also created a GPS course for this route out of Poughkeepsie.


Sugar Loaf. This is one of the longest and toughest climbs in the Catskills (or so I’ve read). I’ll probably modify this route to spend less time on Route 55, which actually isn’t bad in terms of traffic, but I prefer the back roads if at all possible.

Sugar Loaf

Glade Hill. Looks like 18.4% maximum grade, 9.4% average grade, but it is really short. For that reason, I threw some extra fun into this one…since I’m out that way, might as well do some exploring.

Glade Hill

Am I missing anything? Let me know, and tell me about it in the comments instead of via e-mail. That way everyone can benefit. Think of your recommendations like a Japanese game show–you know, the ones in which the audience chooses whether the contestant gets a punch in the 精巣 or simply has to endure eating an 蚯蚓.

Now, I just have to figure out how I’m going to get 1:1 gearing on my road bike. I pride myself in struggling up the steepest hills in 34/25, but–if nothing else–my experience with the Lynsky has shown that 1:1 makes climbing 22% grades more fun, not to mention faster since I can maintain a good spin. Better to have no pride and get to the top first!

Finally, an idea for Rapha video: Imagine me struggling up these climbs, helmetless,while a deep voice intones Catulus’ poem over and over. I even have a scruffy semi-beard to complete the effect.

Mēcum venī!



*Just kidding, of course I know the primary language in Latin America is German!
Catullus’ poem was not, in fact, about climbing hills on a bicycle. He wrote this poem to express his feelings about his mistress Lesbia, before he figured out why she didn’t like him. Seems obvious in retrospect, doesn’t it?
Yes, mom, I always wear a helmet.

11 thoughts on “Odi et Amo: The Eight Biggest Climbs in Ulster County

  1. globecanvas

    Nice write up as usual!

    Meads, from the monastery up to the fire tower, is very steep gravel. Either half of the climb would be in the top ten list by itself.

    Glade Hill I see as 1.9 miles with 1250 feet of elevation gain, average grade 11.7%. Almost a half mile shorter than Platte Clove, same elevation gain. I wouldn’t call it “really short,” personally. It is relentless, and is at least a contender for the very hardest climb in Ulster County.

    South Gully Road, from Ellenville to Cragsmoor, probably belongs on this list. It never gets quite as steep as the other climbs on this list, but it is 3.5 miles of 7%-ish climbing. I would rank it harder than, say, Peekamoose.

  2. Gerald Berliner

    Yup, you just about covered it. I moved up to Ellenville from NYC in 2007 and a year later began riding. Many of these climbs are well known and revered in the area, and from my own personal experience I would like to suggest for your consideration, Wintish Rd just off Rt 52 out of Ellenville and Irish Cape Rd off of Rt 209, both can be seen on this short route I recently did; http://ridewithgps.com/routes/2067696. In Grahamsville there is a well known climbing initiation route called ‘The Grahamsville Quad’ that puts Moore Hill Rd, Suger Loaf, Yeagerville and Glade Hill back-to-back; http://ridewithgps.com/routes/851757 or for more elevation; http://ridewithgps.com/routes/1003733. Happy and safe climbing!

  3. Tom Reingold

    Hi! I’d love to join you. I’m near the Shawangunk ridge. I haven’t climbed it, but I suspect it won’t defeat me. It will surely challenge me, though.

  4. John Ferguson Post author

    I’ll add the suggested routes to a future post, thank you very much!

    Gerald–hey, I didn’t know there was an Ellenville Cycle Club. I’ll join you guys for some rides in the spring for sure. In the meantime, my contact information can be accessed via the About page, happy to ride whenever. I think GlobeCanvas (John) and I are going for a good long ride next Monday, provided it isn’t too far below freezing.

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  9. James Kukula

    The route linked for California Quarry Road doesn’t go all the way up. I can’t really imagine riding up there but I have walked it many times. I think the top is more like 2000 feet in altitude and definitely some plenty steep sections. There are houses all the way up, spectacular views, etc. Anyway that’s why the numbers don’t match the reputation.


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